The week of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game kicks off with the members’ team seeking revenge on their media colleagues, and interest in the annual game skyrocketing after last week’s shooting at a Republican team practice for the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
Last year, the press team, known as the Bad News Babes, beat the lawmakers, 8-4.
The shooting at the GOP baseball practice on Wednesday, which wounded five people including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, led to an outpouring of support for the following day’s Congressional Baseball Game. The event sold 959 tickets and raised nearly $1.7 million for local D.C. charities.
As of Monday, the women’s softball game had already sold more than a thousand tickets and had raised $263,000 for the game’s charity, the Young Survivors Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer. Organizers said the game is on track to be sold out.
Last year’s game broke fundraising records with $215,000 in total money raised. The game has raised more than $875,000 in donations to the charity since it began in 2009.
“We all need cheerleaders so be sure to come,” said Rep. Norma J. Torres, who is making her debut as catcher for the members’ team.
“[Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand] approached me and said, ‘Come on, would you like to be my catcher?’ because she’s a pitcher. And I said, ‘Oh, sure, I’ll try anything.’ I had no idea,” the California Democrat recalled.
While the 7 a.m. practice sessions at least twice a week are difficult, Torres is happy she joined the team.
“I think it’s great. I would recommend all members to do it, especially the new members,” she said. “To be able to build a relationship with someone outside of the Capitol is really important. All of us are rolling out of our bed, putting our hair up in a ponytail, brushing our teeth and running out the door. So there is no war paint on our faces, our hair is not combed. What you see is what you get.”
The members’ team includes lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
“I think it makes for different conversations, to talk more about different issues, our families, sometimes members bring their kids,” Torres said.
The team is also a mix of House members and senators, which also offers a unique opportunity to build inter-chamber relationships.
“[For example, Sen.] Catherine [Cortez Masto] from Nevada, I met her a couple of times, but I didn’t really have an opportunity to talk to her,” Torres said. “We play catch together.”
The congresswoman’s game was a bit rusty at first.
“I have not played softball since high school,” she said. “I was a little reluctant to join the team, but I felt that it was important. Not a lot of women wanted to play this year and I didn’t want it to be canceled.”
Perhaps because of the the chaotic nature of the 115th Congress so far, the members’ team had to recruit more intensely. After the 2016 election, they lost a few players, including New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her bid for a second term, North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, who lost her GOP primary race, and Florida Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, who opted not to seek re-election.
“We were struggling to get people in the beginning,” Torres said.
After about a month and a half of practices, she thinks her team is ready to take on the Bad News Babes — which includes Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman, a returning player this year.
“I think it’s going really well,” Torres said. “We have improved so much.”
Due to last week’s shooting, security at Wednesday’s game has been heightened.
“The Congressional Women’s Softball Game has always taken the security of our players, staff, and fans very seriously. We have worked closely with U.S. Capitol Police since the Game began in 2009,” organizers said in a statement. “We will continue to work with U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police to ensure the safety of everyone involved with the game.”
Tickets are $10. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the game begins at 7 p.m. at Watkins Recreation Center (420 12th St. SE).